Cuban dissident blogger met by small protests in Brazil

Mon Feb 18, 2013 4:23pm EST
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RECIFE, Brazil (Reuters) - Cuba's best-known dissident, blogger Yoani Sanchez, was greeted on Monday by a small group of protesters calling her a CIA agent upon arriving in Brazil, the first stop on a whirlwind tour that will take her to a dozen countries.

A smiling Sanchez brushed off the student demonstrators who sympathize with Cuba's communist government, saying she wished Cubans had the same freedom to protest back home. Sanchez's arrival in Brazil kicked off her first trip abroad since the Cuban government finally granted her a passport after more than 20 refusals in the past five years.

The protesters, about eight leftist students from a local university, shouted "Sell out" and "CIA agent" as Sanchez arrived in the northeastern Brazilian city of Recife, according to a Reuters photographer who was at the airport.

"Viva la democracia! I want that democracy for my country too," she responded.

The Cuban government labels dissidents as mercenaries on the payroll of the United States, its decades-old ideological foe. Sanchez, a 37-year-old Havana resident, has incurred the wrath of Cuba's government for constantly criticizing its communist system in her "Generation Y" blog,, and using Twitter to denounce repression.

Sanchez, who was starting an 80-day tour, was granted a passport two weeks ago under Cuba's sweeping immigration reform that went into effect this year. She has won several international prizes for her blogging about life in Cuba but has been unable to collect them until now.

"I am so happy. It has been five years of struggle," Sanchez told local media.

"Unfortunately, in Cuba you are punished for thinking differently. Opinions against the government have terrible consequences, arbitrary arrests, surveillance," she said in an interview with GloboNews television.

Sanchez's visit touched a political nerve in Brazil, where the left-leaning government of President Dilma Rousseff is often criticized for not taking a more critical stance with Cuba's one-party system and the repression of political dissent there.   Continued...

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez speaks at Classe Apart Hotel in Feira de Santana, February 18, 2013. REUTERS/Ueslei Marcelino